As a member of the Beastie Boys, Mike Diamond has been an honorary member of the visual arts community for years. “As somebody who’s been making music most of their life, I’ve always been interested and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a fair number of visual artists,” Diamond tells Rolling Stone. “And if you look at what my band has done, visuals have always been almost an equally important presentation for us as music was.” Now, Diamond can add ‘curator’ to his list of artistic roles: he’s assembled a group of artists – including Tom Sachs, Mike Mills and Benjamin Jones – for the Transmission L.A.: AV Club show at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, which runs from April 20th to May 6th.
The Beastie Boys have a history of classic music videos, from “Sabotage” and “Shadrach” to “Hey Ladies” and last year’s short film revisiting of “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party).” However, when Diamond was approached to curate Mercedes Benz’ Avant/Garde Diaries festival in Los Angeles, he was very surprised. “They had done one show like this before, with the fashion designer Raf Simons, that took place in Berlin,” he says. “That was the first part of this Transmission series and so at first, I thought, ‘Why me? I have no visual art pedigree.'”
Diamond eventually warmed to the idea, though. “I think a lot of times, when we’re kind of looking for inspiration, we sometimes turn to visual arts and it’s not necessarily a direct thing, but we sometimes get charged or recharged by that,” he says. “So I was interested in this dialogue that exists between music and visual art and one informs the other and then the other informed the first thing.”
Fittingly, music will play a major part of the festival, starting April 19th with a preview concert by Santigold. The exhibit opens during the second week of Coachella, so Diamond may have a lot of famous guests to draw from. He is excited to get other artists involved. “The date was actually a bit of a coincidence,” he says of the Coachella tie-in. “But part of what I look forward to is bringing multi-talented musician types into the project and having them stretch out beyond what they’re totally known for doing. It’s gonna involve not only DJs but also live performance.”
As a musician with an interest in the visual arts, as opposed to being an artist in that medium, Diamond views art shows differently than his artist friends might. “I’m a big fan of visual art, but I’m not always a fan of the museums or even art gallery experience ’cause I feel sometimes it’s stiff or static,” he says. “One of my goals with this was just to try to really change it and infuse this event with a lot of music. There’s gonna be DJs on certain nights and food. The goal is to have it be a full sensory overload, if you will. It’s almost more like an art festival in the sense that we’re trying to get together some live music nights as well.”
in creating his festival for the senses, Diamond hopes to open the art world up to more than typical art fans. “I hope to get people through the doors that maybe wouldn’t ordinarily go through the doors of that or any other museum,” he says. “And then I hope – maybe this is pretty ambitious – to change the idea of what’s possible within that museum or what people think is possible.”
Now that he’s taken on this role, Diamond would like to see what others from the various arts would do with their own festivals. “Spike Jonze would be very interesting because of his list of collaborators and how he works in a bunch of different areas,” he says. “From the visual arts I’d pick Olafur Eliasson – he lives in Berlin. He’s as good as anybody out there; what he does, to me, is so inspiring. I’d like to see what would happen if he brought other people into something.”
And what other musician would he like to see participate? “Kanye West,” he says. “He is someone to me who is always trying to do something interesting visually and that’s obviously important to him. That would definitely be somebody I’d like.”